Thursday, May 25, 2006

Honorable foot in mouth

Have you ever heard something come out of your own mouth that stunned you into a horrified silence? And did the person you were speaking to give you a look that said she wasn’t sure she really heard what she thought she heard?

That happened to me. My face still burns when I think about it, and it’s one of those stories that gets passed around at family gatherings a dozen years after the fact. In order not to embarrass anyone else, I’ll use fake names in this confession.

There’s a really nice lady who lives a mile or two down the road from me. We’ve never spent a lot of time together, but our paths cross occasionally, and we’re connected in a way. Her daughter and my daughter married brothers, which makes our grandchildren first cousins. Our granddaughters are just a couple of years apart in age and have shared a number of activities through the years, so this lady and I have sometimes found ourselves at the same events.

I’ve never known her by anything other than her Americanized name, Patty (let’s say), but she was born in Japan. Although she’s been in the U.S. most of her adult life, her speech still evokes visions of kimonos and cherry blossoms. I adore listening to Patty talk. I’ve always been fascinated by foreign accents, and hers is musical, almost. When I listen to her speak, everything else goes out of my head. I know I shouldn’t, but I find myself concentrating on the sound, more than the substance, of what she’s saying. I let her words and phrases roll around in my mind, and I play with them. Silently (and without moving my lips) I practice saying words the way she says them. WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS!

One night after a dance recital, Patty and I ran into each other outside the LSU Union Building and waited together for our daughters and granddaughters to join us. Neither of us had known beforehand that the other’s granddaughter would be dancing, so each of us had brought along a gift for our own grandchild but nothing for the other girl. We held our separate gift bags and chatted for a few minutes about how nice the recital was and how fast our girls were growing up. Once again, I found myself drawn into Patty’s speech patterns. I was enchanted, and as each sentence came out of her mouth, I mentally mimicked it.

Patty, suddenly becoming aware of the gift situation, blurted out, “Oh, no! I not-ta get-ta nut-tin foh Kaaaay-tee!”

To my intense and endless shame, I immediately responded, “Oh, don’t worry about it, I not-ta get-ta nut-tin foh Staaaay-cee.”

Wouldn’t you just die?


  1. Don't you just hate it when the internal monologue goes external?

  2. well maybe she didn't see anythink wrong with you speach, we can hope.

  3. It doesn't seem to be fatal, even done multiple times.

    I must be some sort of bad mimic, because I automatically fall into others speech patterns without even realizing it...until I get the look....

  4. You crack me up, woman!!!


  5. Mike: I did indeed hate it, but thought it was a one-time thing until I heard from...

    Julia: Welcome. Do you think maybe I've done this before without realizing it? Omigod!

    Patsy: Now, that's positive thinking! It may have sounded normal to her.

    Priss: Welcome back. And I like your accent.

  6. I like-a way you talk, too!!!

  7. LOL... it's so good to know I'm not alone..

    Many years ago, I was an avid listener to a radio station that sponsored these wonderful trips. One year it was to Hawaii!!

    The contest was to listen to several snippets of songs and guess the artist and the title. Each song was only 3 or 4 bars and they were all compressed together into one blurb of music. I recorded it and played it over and over again to identify each song.

    One sunny Sunday afternoon, I was lucky to be the right caller. The DJ asked for my name... I told him. Then he asked me, "Well, Steph, if you win the trip to Hawaii, what is the first thing you'll do when you get there?"

    Without even hesitating I said, "Oh, I want a real lai!"

    I said this on live radio, they probably heard me Japan..

  8. Welcome, steph and kansassunflower. So, Steph, did you win the trip to Hawaii?

  9. i think it is just very sweet, and i am sure that knowing what kind of person you are she did not take offense........again, i will say your daughter is truely blessed to have you as a mom, and you are likewise blessed to have such a talented daughter....fondly, joyce c.

  10. Aw, Joyce, now I'm blushin'. Thanks.


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